Posts Tagged ‘articles’

Topic Doesn’t Matter

March 24, 2011 2 comments

Have you run out of fresh ideas for stories or articles? Are you hanging from the last knot at the end of your rope? What are you going to do?

There’s an easy answer to that last question. Sometimes it’s not the lack of material out there for a writer to use. It is everywhere. Resetting your mental perspective on ideas could sweep a multitude of viable avenues onto your storyboard.

Hunting for Stories

Find a newspaper or tackle Yahoo! News feeds and see what you can find. Here are ten possible idea sparkers found in less than fifteen minutes.

1.      Elizabeth Taylor

2.      Japan’s earthquakes

3.      Earth’s axis

4.      Housing slump

5.      Pennies saved

6.      Control tower scare

 7.      Volcano in Africa

8.      Skin care for guys

9.      Another oil slick hits LA coast

10.   Sports themes–Michael Jordan 

Have News, Now What?

On the surface these all seem uninteresting. How could any of them spark ideas that haven’t been done to death?

Let’s see what could come of them with a bit of thought expansion.

1.      Elizabeth Taylor—everyone talks about her beauty, her film career, etc. On the non-fiction side, experts will comb through everything in her life for their fodder. On the fiction side there is much to think about. Here was a young girl who was beautiful, with violet eyes, who loved to act. She was given that chance and excelled.

But, what could have happened to her without that chance? What could a beautiful young girl, without such talent, experience during her teen years? What if she really preferred a career behind the spotlight—say, as a set designer? Her talent could be in art. Such scenarios abound.

2.      Japan’s earthquakes—tons of ideas come from this news. Of course, there’s one aspect that many wouldn’t use. This goes along with #3 in our list. (Underlying info revealed that when the big quake hit Japan, three things happened which explain the destruction. One: the area of the quake dropped the landmass approximately two feet in altitude, two: Japan’s landmass was drawn 6.5 inches closer to the United States, and three: the quake caused an axial shift of the Earth.

Those facts hold significant ideas in their grip. Non-fiction possibilities: what impact may these geological realities warn us about, interviews with relatives of survivors of the quake, how does the Earth’s axis work and why a change is significant, etc. On the fiction side, apocalyptic scenarios flash through the brain along with character driven survivor stories, etc. Lots of ground could be covered from one event.

3.      Earth’s axis has been covered above


4.      Housing slump—some experts on the economic recovery are now advocating that people not buy homes for a while. Non-fiction—what happens to towns with large amounts of homes for sale? What about Florida, which has a 20% vacancy rate right now? How long is too long for a home to be on the market? And the list goes on. Fiction—anything having to do with someone affected by buying, selling, losing a home and the people involved.


5.      Pennies saved­—any one save pennies in your household? Have you ever tried to pay a bill with them? One man did and had to go to several branches of his bank to do it because he couldn’t find one with a vault big enough to hold his payment and they wouldn’t accept it.

Did you know that if people cashed in their saved pennies the result would be somewhere over $1 billion back in circulation? Slants on this subject are too numerous to mention.

6.      Control tower scare—Washington D.C. Reagan airport had two planes land without instructions or assistance yesterday because no one answered from the FAA investigation ensued. What could have happened rather than safe landings? What about those in the planes, did they know? Here, too, the resulting questions, ideas and scenarios are many for both fiction and non-fiction.


7.      Volcano photos—scientists descend into a live, lava-producing Nyiragongo volcano in the Republic of Congo. This should spark the imagination of any writer. The photos of their mission into liquid fire evoke many questions for both fiction and non-fiction. How well do their special suits protect them from both heat and deadly gases? Do they now understand that little known volcano any better? What dangers did they face that weren’t expected? Interviews with the families of the researchers would be marvelous ideas. Fictional accounts of harrowing events inside such a volcano could create stories for older children and adults.


8.      Skin care for guys—Plastic surgery comes into this category, as well. Non-fiction ideas: social stigma of the subject, testimonials from guys (pro and con), doctors take on the subject with recommendations for boys, etc. Fiction­ could come in children’s stories about a child who has to use special creams for acne, allergies, or what have you and what he must endure in the locker room. It could go SF and be about a world of the future where men are outcast if they don’t have facial treatments and surgery. It takes all kinds of writing to make up magazines.


9.      Another oil slick along LA’s Gulf shoreline—sparks ignite the drilling and pollution control debate again after this new slick can to light. There are human interest stories, animal rights issues, ecological issues and questions yet to be answered about oil company responsibilities, etc. Both fiction and non-fiction could go wild again on this topic.


10.  Sports themes are always good­-­­-So many news items are in this week’s news feeds that a writer can take their pick of odd subjects and run with it. Fictionalize any one of them and have a good story for the young. Or, do an in-depth look at any of the questions that leap out after reading one of the longer articles. Take your pick.


As you can see, there are many avenues to be explored. Science articles always find a home, whether they are for children or adults. Speculation pieces do well on the open market because they force the reader to ask questions. A sports piece is always a winner for most markets, especially when it can be tied to something else.

Angles make the difference in the benefits reaped from anything. It doesn’t matter if you concentrate on fiction or non-fiction as a rule. They are both sides of the same idea, information, or event. The questions asked by the writer dictate the direction taken in words. All the writer must do is use eyes, ears, and mind to find more material than ever thought possible.

I’ll leave you with those thoughts as you slide on over to your favorite news feed to peruse the latest and greatest idea generators. Have a great end to the week.

A bientot,


Tripping The Narrative Fancy

December 28, 2010 2 comments

Writing while on the road is an interesting prospect, regardless of how you slice pie.

As everyone knows Sister Jo and I have hit the road for the ultimate US touring experience. I’m suppose to be writing about it as we go along. Right now, we’re stationary while bunking with a cousin and her husband for several days.

Traveling is good. The finer points of the stationary life comes home with stronger vigor after rolling for two weeks without much respite. So far we’ve managed to put on approximately 3200 miles in just over two weeks, and accounting for seven days of actual down time.

In that time, writing has consisted of sporadic blog and website postings and text messages to a few friends who’re following and keeping track of our trip for the rest of the gang.

Now, I’ve come to the point of putting together articles to go out to editors. It all sounds so easy to people for me to say, “I have a few articles to write so that this little trip can start paying for itself.”

I read a blog the other day about writing narrative pieces. I thought about it for a while, trying to decide if that was the kind of writing I normally did. I know that sounds odd, that I needed to think about whether I do narrative or not. The fact is that I don’t think about that area of writing. I’m an organic writer.

Organic writers, I’ve found, don’t necessarily concern themselves with labeling types of structures used on a regular basis. I do narrative as a matter of course. The type of narrative depends on the subject matter involved.

For instance, I can write history pieces for both adult and children with lots of descriptive narrative. I’m sure to find a home for some of those. And we’ve certainly been to a large number of historic places, complete with statues.

I could write about the emotional times, when all around us is surrounded by rain and getting out to explore any sight or site would be miserable and demoralizing. That narrative of emotional cleansing could go along with missives about the drought-caused devastation we’ve encountered throughout the southwest. Some of those areas nearly broke our hearts.

There are always pieces for the kids on peculiar trivia about places we’ve visited. Those are easy and fun pieces to do. Adults enjoy those, too. Unfortunately, little narrative is required for those pieces.

You see what I mean. Narrative takes place most successfully for me in memoir, stories (fiction/creative non-fiction), and essay. In order for me to do any real work in that structured area, genre is mandatory.

Let me give you a small sample of what I mean. This is the bare bones of something I’d write about one historic site we encountered.

     In the small community of Goliad, TX, the visitor will find a monument location that dates back to the Texas/Mexican Revolutionary War. (That was in 1836 for those without ready history books to hand.) Inside the Presidio La Bahia area stands a granite monument representing a man named Fannin and his soldiers.

     Col. James W. Fannin was fighting for Texas’s independence. The Alamo had fallen. He and his men  held the Presidio La Bahia, which Fannin renamed Fort Defiance, in the latter part of March, 1836.

     As a result of a miscalculation on his part after being ordered by Sam Houston to retreat, Fannin and his nearly 400 men were trapped in the open by a superior Mexican force.  Fannin surrendered to the Mexican troops on March 20th, rather than die uselessly and were held in the Presidio by the Mexican troops. Their complement was enlarged by the capture of other Texas units in the area. Since they’d surrendered peacefully, Col. Fannin expected all of them to be considered prisoners of war.

     Instead, they were marched out on Palm Sunday, one week later, and executed as pirates on orders of Gen. Santa Ana. All of Col. Fannin’s men and many of those who’d been housed with them (342 in total) were taken outside the Presidio where they were summarily killed and then burned.

     Their charred remains were then buried a few hundred yards away and left to be forgotten. Fortunately, their final battle cry of “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” rang through the air, lifting the hearts and spirits of those still held inside the Presidio’s cells. Those men and their Battle cry were not forgotten.          

      Later, a huge granite monument was erected over their gravesite and engraved with the names of every man who died that day. It stands as a reminder to the courage and carnage of war and the price of independence.

        General Ignacio Zaragoza, Mexican hero of Cinco de Mayo, declared that Cinco de Mayo had nothing to do with Mexican independence, but rather the sacrifice of 342 lives for the sake of independence at a place called Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, TX. Much later, the state of Texas also recognized the celebration to represent the fallen of the revolution for independence.

This type of subject can make for fascinating narrative, but when it’s only a small blurb within the body of a larger piece, it suffers from lack of dedication and attention. Part of that lack is also due to lack of time for writing while on the road and having infrequent computer access, electricity, and online abilities.

Excuses notwithstanding, putting together viable publishable essays, stories, and articles draws out the competitor in the writer who wants to succeed while rolling along.

I hope all of those who choose such exercises in the writing experience the best of luck with narrative.

Writing on the fly is never easy. Writing on the fly while rolling along and trying to take in the new while writing about the old is doubly challenging.

Good luck to those who accept the challenge. I hope to see you in those small places along the way. Take care, all and write well and often.

Until then, a bientot,


Octoberfest in a Tent

October 7, 2010 2 comments

Today has been a hectic one with preparations for several days camping and a photo shoot with photographer sister. Those little ideas just keep churning when the brain is exposed to other environments. I have no idea what I’ll come home with, material-wise, but I bet I’ll get several pieces out of it and maybe a story or two.

After all, if I’m going to add travel writing to the repertoire, I do need material. We should get some good stuff where we’re going.

That poor little car of ours may never be the same. It’s loaded to the roof supports with camping gear. At dinner tonight, as I slid out of the booth to go pay the ticket, my poor old body hit the wall. All the frenetic activity for the past two days and especially today, hit me all at once.

And then I couldn’t take the time to get in a nap. Too much to do before bed. I’m working on that proposition now. I may make it by midnight thirty, if I’m really lucky. Five AM is going to arrive way before I’m ready for it.

Just wanted to warn everyone that there would be no postings for the next couple of weeks or so while I’m incommunicado in the wilds of camping territory. We’re just hoping we get cell coverage.

I hope everyone has plenty of success in whatever endeavor pursued while I’m doing my research thing.

Take care, all, and God bless. A bientot,